Bellator 77 Preview: Lightweight Tournament Quarterfinals

The seventh season of the Bellator Fighting Championships resumes tonight at The Reading Eagle Theater at The Sovereign Center in Reading, Pennsylvania for Bellator 77.

Tonight’s fight card will begin with the preliminary card on at 6 p.m. ET with six fights and the main card will begin at 8 p.m. ET on MTV2 and in commercial free high definition on EPIX2 with the four quarterfinals bouts in this season’s lightweight tournament.

The winners of tonight’s quarterfinal bouts will advance to the semifinals, which will take place later this season and Bellator has not currently announced what fight card the semifinals will take place at.

Rich Clementi (44-21-1) vs. Alexander Sarnavskiy (20-0)

This will be the main event on tonight’s card and will be the Bellator and United States debut of Sarnavskiy. He has been labeled as the favorite to win this tournament and is believed to be the number one seed. 17 of his 20 wins are by either knockout or submission and seven of his last ten wins have come by submission. Also, in his last ten fights, he has only gone past the first round on two occasions.

Clementi is a veteran of over 60 professional MMA fights and has won three of his last four fights, which includes a win over Derek Campos at Bellator 70 in May. All of those victories are by submission and his last ten wins have come by submission.

Clementi will want to get this fight to the ground, whether he is in top position or on his back. Sarnavskiy told this week that he knows that his opponent will want to take the fight to the ground and he will make sure to keep the fight standing.

Prediction: Alexander Sarnavskiy by TKO in first round

Dave Jansen (17-2) vs. Magomed Saadulaev (14-1)

Both fighters enter this fight on a three fight winning streak and Jansen entered Bellator after a stint in the WEC, where he lost two of three with losses against Kamal Shalorus and Ricardo Lamas. Ten of his victories have come by submission and two of his three Bellator wins are by submission.

Saadulaev will be making his United States and Bellator debut tonight and has fought most of his career in Russia. Eight of his career wins are by submission, but five of his last six wins are by decision.

Both of these fighters like to end their fights with submission and Jansen told this week that his opponent is a great grappler and his biggest strength is his overall strength. Even though striking is not a strength of Jansen, look for him to make Saadulaev stand with him and not allow him to defeat him by a submission.

Prediction: Dave Jansen by decision

Marcin Held (13-2) vs. Murad Machaev (9-0)

This is the second time that Held has been in a Bellator lightweight tournament as he was a quarter finalist in the season four tournament. In that tournament, he faced Michael Chandler in the quarterfinals and was defeated by submission in the second round. Since that fight, he has three straight victories and two of those wins are by heel hook submission.

Machaev is another Russian fighter that will be making his debut in Bellator during this season, which the Russian fighters have had a ton of success during this season. He has seven wins by stoppage and five of those are by submission. Because of his submission victories, he has been given the nickname “Chokeman.”

Both fighters will want to work their submission game and Held has shown in the past to leave himself open to submission, which is what happened against Chandler. Look for the action to go to the mat earlier and someone will likely be submitted.

Prediction: Marcin Held by submission in first round

Ricardo Tirloni (14-2) vs. Rene Nazare (10-2)

This will be the second Bellator tournament for Tirloni, who was a quarter finalist in the season six lightweight tournament. He lost to Rick Hawn in that tournament and it was his first lost since 2008, which was against Benson Henderson in Canada. Five of his last seven wins are by submission and his lone Bellator win came by submission.

Nazare is a five fight Bellator veteran and this will also be his second Bellator lightweight tournament. Just like Tirloni, he was a quarter finalist in the season six lightweight and was defeated by Thiago Michel by split decision.

When Nazare takes on an opponent that can neutral his strength, which is grappling and jiu-jitsu. Tirloni should be able to do this, but will have to stay away from putting himself in a bad position on the ground.

Prediction: Ricardo Tirloni by decision